Ember | February Update
Hey everyone - we're excited to bring you an Ember update today! Feels like January flew by... I don't even know where the time went. Let's dive into the Summary (for those that want the top level view) -
- I was in Asia visiting all of our partners starting December 26th (top priority being Hot Pocket graphene heat panel resolution, this will also directly play into Ember).
- Second priority was Ember style/fit adjustments, I spent 4 days working through this with George and his team (the iterations were lightning fast being that I was physically there, we made a ton of progress).
- I had successful meetings/reviews with our other partners: Power Pack, Solar System, ect.. and great reports.
- After 14+ days, I left our partners on January 11th with clear plans, schedules, and timelines.
- They began their Chinese New Year holiday on the 12th and were suppose to come back online on the 31st. They still have not come back online.
- The current coronavirus has caused a delay in factories being permitted to spin back up again.
- Our Ember facilities are in safe zones and have suffered no ill-effects, however, the government has shut down China and should be approving companies to spin back up next week (hopefully).
- In light of the above, we just wanted to let you know immediately that this virus/setback was definitely not in our original timeline/plan and could cause delays.
The good news is all of this is currently being pushed heavily for Hot Pocket and we are laser focused on getting these Graphene Heat Panels to production. More good news for Ember Backers is that the entire development, certification, and manufacturing of the Power Packs is complete and ready to ship!
All in all we have three key items pending for Ember:
- 1) PCS or Post Campaign Survey, we'll use this to get the final P.O. and exact size quantities. This was suppose to launch in January, unfortunately we had a couple items arise internally and we weren't able to finish all of the updates in time. We are now on track to start sending this out end of next week. I'll send you an email further explaining everything but we're excited to try something new for our Ember backers. When your PCS arrives PLEASE take a few minutes and complete it :) we'll need at least 70% of our backers to complete it in order to place a solid PO.
- 2) Fabrics, this is one of the bigger lead time items, but we have finalized all of the materials and also made a huge upgrade on the shell fabric of Ember. We switched over to a 4-way stretch ripstop fabric, which will improve durability but maintain the active stretch feel that Ember is going to be legendary for. It's also about 12% lighter which is an added bonus. Our original fabric just felt like it was missing the mark, hard to put my finger on it but it just wasn't right. This upgrade is a bit more costly but in the long run very worth it.
- 3) Graphene Heat Panels, this is the biggest challenge we'll face with Ember and as I said above we're laser focused on this, thankfully the tech in both Hot Pocket and Ember overlap - that alone is helping tremendously.
Full Trip Details (#1 Heat Panel)
Now on to the details, below I'll outline all of the progress made on the trip and what we're doing to keep things moving forward. (video montage pulled together for you at the end)
On December 22nd Juli, the boys, and I were packing up for an early Christmas and I received a text from Chris (introduced in our last update), he stated he would not be joining me in Asia, and that he would be resigning. After two weeks of training and bringing Chris up to speed - this was a tough blow for me personally. As a family, we pivoted and re-scheduled Christmas so that I could board a plane early morning December 26th from Dallas and Juli and the boys would be able to spend time with her family there.
December 26th - 27th, it basically takes 24 hours to get to China, my flights were smooth, but there's nothing fun about being in an aluminum can for 14 hours :) haha, I got a lot of work done.
I arrived in Tianjin on the morning of the 28th and went straight over to the Hot Pocket factory. My #1 priority for this trip was securing the relationship of our new Graphene Heat Panel partnership and working out the challenges we are facing in making the switch to a new facility. This hinged on a man named David, the owner of the Graphene Heat Panel facility.
All of this went really, really well. Thankfully.
Once we solidified all that was possible on the Graphene Heat Panel I spent two days working with George's team on Ember. We went through three iterations of the Male and Female versions of the Jackets and Pullovers (each), lots of samples and very fast! Working through these fine details in person was much more efficient and we made excellent progress!
Next, I went to our Power Pack facility - when I arrived we went through everything and I learned that they had discovered an issue during quality inspection and had proactively isolated the issue and re-made the 106 Power Packs affected - wow, I was impressed and thankful. These guys have been a great partner to Sierra Madre and have followed our quality standards to a T.
We did run into one other issue and fortunately, we caught it preemptively while I was there. All of the Power Packs were completed and stacked neatly in pallets and as a final test we picked up a box and dropped it onto the concrete floor. Upon inspection, we discovered that all of the Power Packs were fine but the packaging needed improvements, so we re-packaged a box with more foam and dropped it again. No issue whatsoever, and now all 6,500 Power Pack packages have been re-packaged with more foam. (so when you receive your gear, please let me know how the packaging looks, should be tip-top :))
I then headed to Hong Kong (short 3-hour train ride) and took a rest day on January 4th and enjoyed a bit of hiking, it was much needed since I had been going 100mph since I arrived and I was starting to feel it.
Something you may not have heard much about is our all new Solar System. When we launched the Hot Pocket (and Ember for that matter) one of the big questions we kept hearing was - "How do I re-charge in the wild?" So we went to work and created the Solar System, but we didn't just want to put a different color on what was already in the market. We started the design over, at ground zero, and reimagined what we all needed out of a solar product.
The existing frustration that kept striking us in the face was that there was no way to scale your power. We were all forced to buy a 14 watt panel/controller and then buy an entirely new panel/controller system if we wanted 28 watts of power, or 42 watts of power.
So we created the first ever ultralight weight scaleable solar charging system and rightly dubbed it the "Solar System". Just before you receive the PCS we'll have a full blog article going over the Solar System and it's unique advantages, and in the PCS you'll be able to get your hands on one of these at a Backer Only deal - so stay tuned!
I was able to take a full tour through our Solar System facilities and enjoyed seeing the entire process of creating a Solar Panel (check out the 2nd half of the video below!). Our first Solar System shipment will be ready to ship about 7-14 days after the facility comes back online.
Ember Adjustments Round 2
After I completed the tour of all our pending suppliers I circled back to George's facility for another 3 days of work with his team. We were able to complete several more iterations and a solid checklist of all remaining items that we were waiting on from other vendors.
Most likely I will be going back to China to do another round of finalization, but we'll have to see how the current virus situation shakes out.
All in all I could not be more excited about Ember, this wearable is already an amazing piece of gear in its current phase of alterations, but when we get it across the finish line I believe it will create a new standard for wearable warmth.
I do realize there's a splash of unknown still in front of us, I know that can be unsettling. Rest assured it's part of the journey and we will prevail. We're a strong team and we have faced challenges before, braving the unknown is part of who we are - and I'd imagine, it's also a part of who you are.
Every time we push the envelope of innovation we face new setbacks and challenges, I've come to realize it's part of the process. Doing things for the first time (if they are worth doing) always test you, always ask how committed you are to excellence. We're "all in" on excellence, stick with us - it's going to be beyond worth it.
Thankful you're on this journey with us! More to come soon!